An Interview with Sharon Lam

Sharon Lam’s debut novel, Lonely Asian Woman, attracted attention for all the right reasons. The title, for one, encapsulates the stereotype of the young Asian woman seeking out a white horny old man in the creepy ads of the local paper. She lives in both New Zealand and Hong Kong.

What does a day in the life of Sharon Lam in Wellington look like?

Wake up, have a soft-boiled egg, dawdle for five hours, go for a swim

What does a day in the life of Sharon Lam in Hong Kong look like?

Wake up, have some cheung fun, dawdle for five hours, go for a swim

Where did the inspiration for your debut novel Lonely Asian Woman come from?

I don’t think it ever did, in a way? I’ve always wanted to write a novel, so I was inspired by the overall act of it, but in terms of the story in Lonely Asian Woman, I wrote having no idea where it was going or what was going to be about. I did know all along that the protagonist would be of Asian descent though. Anything to counter that stupid zero-dimensional, not funny, racist Spray and Walk Away ad which has been on TV for more than A DECADE and won’t get taken down because apparently the offense isn’t “widespread” enough. 

Can you relate to your character Paula in any way?

I also love Survivor. They’ve leaked that Season 40 is going to be an all-winners season and I can’t believe there’s going to be such beauty in the world.

What was the hardest part of Lonely Asian Woman to write?

The acknowledgements page! To quote Doretta Lau, “how does a single blade of grass thank the sun?”

What was your favourite part to write?

Semi-spoiler alert! The scene where Paula’s playing mahjong with the loose baby limbs. I thought that was so crack up. Also the few scenes with Jake. In my head Jake is soooo hot.

Where do you think the‘lonely Asian woman’ stereotype stemmed from, and what should society do to change it?

I swear everything wrong with the world can be explained through capitalism, colonialism, and/or the patriarchy. ‘Lonely Asian women’ are a lovely product of all three. Society should listen, and make listenable, the voices of the stereotyped. The more the better, to reduce reductive thinking. And stand against things like the Spray and Walk Away ad. Casual racism is the first step to so much worse – just google the white supremacy pyramid!

If there’s one book we should all read (except for yours) what is it, and why?

There are so many but recently I finished In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall, and it was crazy good. I read it all during rush hour subway clutching it to my heart and smiling (except for the chapter called ‘Death’, then I was crying on the subway instead)

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve found nothing dissuades dislocation as instantaneously as the curling your toes trick John McClane talks about in Die Hard.

What exciting project do you have in the pipeline?

Skip/ nothing lined up haha!

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